Canada: Burlington wants to ticket drivers who give money to panhandlers - - PressFrom - Canada
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CanadaBurlington wants to ticket drivers who give money to panhandlers

22:53  17 september  2019
22:53  17 september  2019 Source:   thestar.com

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Burlington wants to ticket drivers who give money to panhandlers© Nikki Wesley Burlington council continues to grapple with a response to roadside panhandling around the city. The mayor proposed an idea that would fine the drivers who make donations with distracted driving.

The city of Burlington is looking at reducing roadside begging by targeting drivers.

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward pitched the idea of ticketing those drivers who give to the roadside panhandlers. She proposed that the practice of handing something to someone outside a vehicle while the engine is running constitutes distracted driving.

Councillor Rory Nisan expressed support for the idea, arguing it should be attached to a public communication strategy that encourages people to instead donate to local support organizations like the food bank.

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“It’s a bit of a carrot and a stick, and it’s not being applied to people who are asking for the money, because after all we know they are very unlikely to even pay the ticket. So, it’s not the kind of deterrent we need. I’d rather have a deterrent for the donors,” Nisan said.

There is presently no law that bans people from soliciting donations on the side of streets in Burlington. Historically, laws aimed at preventing roadside begging haven’t been particularly effective, as panhandlers don’t tend to be affected by fines.

As long as individuals don’t panhandle on the road itself, it is not illegal, and there is little police can do in terms of enforcement.

In addition to a social media campaign, messaging in the city newsletters and an update to the municipality’s website, the mayor proposed the creation of a brochure that police could hand out when pulling over someone seen donating to a roadside panhandler.

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That brochure would educate drivers both why it’s a bad idea to give money this way, and point them to community organizations where they could better give their money.

“We would work with the police to say we’re trying to educate the community, that this is a potential hazard to yourself and the person you’re trying to help. It’s also a terrible way to help people in poverty,” Meed Ward said.

“They would pull the car over and it’s an opportunity for more education — and maybe hand them a stack of brochures and say the next time you see this give this instead of a dollar and take your dollar to the food bank.”

The issue of roadside panhandling has been discussed by councillors before, with a number of options proposed.

Councillor Lisa Kearns said the issue is complicated and hoped that any public communication plan would address the issue that some roadside panhandlers are doing this as part of an organized business.

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“This is a racket. I have numerous, numerous emails observations of my own where the individuals we are trying to address on the roadways are shifting to secure funds from our community,” Kearns said.

“There is an impression that the individuals which are panhandling are organized in an almost shift-like pattern, being dropped off, picked up, and rotated to the roadside locations where they are observed. Ongoing refusal for social services or community outreach supports this observation. The individuals and drivers are put at risk due to what appears to be a business model preying on the generosity of Burlington folks.”

City staff has been directed to work with police, the regional poverty roundtable and report back next year.

Roland Cilliers is a general assignment reporter for InsideHalton.com and its sister papers. Reach him via email: [email protected]

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